If there was ever a “perfect” album to come out of the (largely mediocre) world of CCM, Rich Mullins’ A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band was it. (Are the ‘A’s supposed to be capitalized? It looks funny either way.) This album is fifteen (fifteen!) years old this year, and yet still sounds as fresh and vital as when it was released. If you’re not familiar with the album, let me give you an overview. (If you are familiar with the album, you won’t mind the refresher at all.)
Split into two halves, the first half is the splendid Liturgy. Here In America is the Introit, or entrance. It is followed by the stunning text of (Isaiah) 52:10, the hymn of praise recognizing the beauty of creation called The Color Green, the supplicant’s prayer Hold Me Jesus, the bold restatement of the (Apostle’s) Creed, and Peace, helpfully subtitled A Communion Blessing from St. Joseph’s Square. Each song in itself is excellent, and as a set they reach the level of masterpiece. When, in Peace, Rich starts the first two verses with this juxtaposition
Though we’re strangers, still I love you
I love you more than your mask
And you know you have to trust this to be true
And I know that’s much to ask…
And though I love you, still we’re strangers
Prisoners in these lonely hearts
And though our blindness separates us
Still a light shines in the dark…
We understand immediately the tension of the Christian fellowship – bound by the love of Christ, and yet so frustratingly driven apart by our sinful humanity. It’s beautiful stuff from beginning to end.
The second half is the Legacy: a reflection on life. It starts with the upbeat instrumental 78 Eatonwood Green, then moves into the challenge of being like Jesus (Hard), the challenge of living life away from family (I’ll Carry On), a child’s wonder at Christmas (You Gotta Get Up), the challenge and frustration of the world we live in (Mark Heard’s How To Grow Up Big and Strong), and finally the most beautiful picture you’ll ever hear painted of the tension of living in a country you love while simultaneously looking forward to the heavenly home (Land of my Sojurn).
Nobody tells you when you get born here
How much you’re going to love it and how you’ll never belong here
So I’ll call you my country, but I’ll be longing for my home
And I wish that I could take you there with me…
And the Ragamuffin Band? Well, they sound fantastic. From Rich’s clear piano and the cymbals mirroring the ocean’s crashing in Here In America, to the mellow electric guitar and fantastic drum fills in Peace, to the dulcimer driving Land of my Sojurn, the album has an organic acoustic sound that rightfully has become the inspiration for a younger generation of musicians. My first inclination is to say that it is lightning in a bottle, that it’ll never be captured that way again. But then I listen to the guitars of Andrew Peterson and Andy Osenga, the piano of Ben Shive, and the percussion of Todd Bragg and Garrett Buell, and I will instead be thankful that the musical and songwriting heritage of Rich Mullins has indeed carried on.
If for some reason you don’t already own this album, you can buy it at Amazon.